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July 21, 2009 

Go ahead and look while you still can. A collection of more than 3,000 images of works from Londonís National Portrait Gallery (NPG) is still live on Wikipedia Commons as of today, July 21, 2009. Lawyers for the NPG had given Wikimedia -- the parent organization of Wikipedia as well as a dozen other nonprofit "wiki" projects -- a July 20 ultimatum to remove the images, which were uploaded to the free-wheeling digital repository by a volunteer, Derrick Coetzee, back in March. The London museum claims that it owns the copyright on the digital reproductions, despite the fact that the artworks themselves are in some cases many centuries old and thus in the public domain.

What happens now? Itís unclear. The images were first put online as part of an initiative to digitize the museumís collection, and the NPG claims that Coetzee even used a special "unscrambling" software to snag them, since they were viewable in many cases only using Zoomify, which allows viewers to explore high-res images in greater detail by breaking them down into smaller parts. British copyright law sets a low bar for proving copyright infringement. However, Coetzee is based in the U.S., where law favors the notion that "a faithful copy of a work of art lacks originality," and therefore cannot be copyrighted. Coetzee is being represented pro bono by Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Whatever the legal issues, both sides claim to be serving the public. Supporters of Wikimedia claim that the NPG is trying to monopolize images that should freely circulate. Supporters of the NPG, on the other hand, claim that the institution should be repaid for its labor -- it supposedly spent £39,000 putting the images online -- and that totally free distribution of the kind that Wikimedia advocates will lead to less availability of images, since no one will be able to afford to digitize their collections. (Then again, if museums would let visitors freely photograph works, there would probably be all manner of images online in no time -- remember the iMoMA Project?)

What is certain, however, is that the dispute has probably generated more excitement than the National Portrait Gallery collection has seen in decades! The curious perusing the uploaded images will find mainly endless pictures of glassy-eyed dukes and earls. However, there are some gems such as an angelic pastel self-portrait by Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a weirdly intense portrait of Anne BrontŽ painted by her brother and a terrifying engraving of A Chorus of Singers by William Hogarth.

The initial project of new DEPART Foundation -- "depart" stands for "discussion, exhibition and production of art" -- is "New York Minute," Sept. 19-Nov. 1, 2009, an exhibition organized by Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson for MACRO, Museo díArte Contemporanea Roma. The show features 60 artists from New York and elsewhere whose mode of operation is collaborative and networked, ranging from "Street Punk" artists Gardar Eide Einarsson, Terence Koh, Nate Lowman, Dash Snow to "Wild Figuration" practitioners like Jules de Balincourt, Jim Drain, Chris Johanson and Paper Rad and "New Abstraction" artists such as Dan Colen, Rosson Crow and Sterling Ruby.

DEPART Foundation was established this year by Pierpaolo Barzan, the Italian founder of Altay Scientific, a company that produces and distributes science teaching equipment for schools. "In difficult economic times," Barzan said at a recent press lunch, "bold statements are important." He hopes to re-establish the artistic links between Rome and New York that were founded in the post-war years, and to this end is establishing a pair of residencies, one to bring artists to Rome and another to a studio space near the family vineyard in Tuscany. For further details, see

The Kresge Foundation in Detroit has announced the winners of its inaugural round of Kresge Artist Fellowships, an unrestricted grant of $25,000 to 18 metropolitan Detroit artists. Devoted exclusively to Detroit artists, the grants "represent the foundationís unwavering support for artists living and working in its hometown." Fellows for 2009 are Shiva Ahmadi, Hartmut Austen, Lynne Avadenka, Kristin Beaver, Ed Fraga, Susan Goethel Campbell, Tyree Guyton, Chido Johnson, Rod Klingelhofer, Abigail Anne Newbold, Gordon Newton, Russ Orlando, Senghor Reid, Michael Edward Smith, Gilda Snowden, Cedric Tai, Sioux Trujillo and Corine Vermeulen-Smith.

The panel that selected the winners included Kresge Art Museum director Susan Bandes, Oakland University Art Gallery director Dick Goody, and artists Lorna Simpson and Richard Tuttle.

The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation has announced the 17 artists who have been selected for the 2009 "space program," which provides artists with free studio spaces in Brooklynís DUMBO neighborhood. The jury, consisting of artists Phong Bui, Cynthia Carlson, Robert Cottingham, Judy Pfaff and Dana Schutz, choose the winners from 1,150 applicants. The winning artists are Michael Berryhill, Rhona Bitner, David Brooks, Benjamin Dowell, Kate Gilmore, Josephine Halvorson, Jaya Howey, Sangram Majumdar, David Opdyke, Nathlie Provosty, Ishamael Randall Weeks, Claire Sherman, Rob Swainston and Karla Wozniak.

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